Thursday, April 22, 2010

In search of an anchor

I’ve been spending time lately with a number of people who are eager to know truth but reluctant to go “all in” with Christ as that truth. I can see how sincerely they want to know what is really right and good, and yet questions gnaw at them about where Jesus is that rightness and goodness. For some of them, this results in simply being blown to and fro by their emotions and desires. For others it results in confusion about life and purpose. But for all, there is no anchor or compass that is a steady point in the midst of all the changes of life.

And it seems that all the “answers” that come to mind when I think of the things that they are facing are contingent upon faith. The answers that I find to life’s questions, the hope that I have in the midst of pain or confusion, are all based on faith that what God says in the Bible is true. I’ve found that other answers, either based on people or on my own abilities, always fall short, and they tend to shift and fade depending on my mood or circumstances.

As I have thought about my friends, who I really love and care about, it makes me sad to see them without an anchor in the midst of inevitable storms. And it makes me thankful for the hope that I have in Christ. Sometimes I take the truth of God for granted, thinking that truth is good for truth’s sake and forgetting that truth is good for our sake as well.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Choosing the correct preposition

There are a lot of Christian worship songs out there expressing the desire to live for Jesus Christ, and I appreciate their intent and sentiment. The gift of forgiveness and new life is so great that our hearts long to respond and give back to God, to see ourselves as ones whose lives are abandoned to His purposes. In 2 Corinthians 5:15, Paul says that “those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” God reorients our purposes and our priorities, and when we receive the life of Christ, we also put ourselves under the authority of a new King, a new leader calling the shots.

However, there is a subtle danger in the preposition “for” when we talk about living for Jesus. We can begin to believe that this Christian life, this life of loving trust and response, becomes something that we can do on our own and something that God expects us to do for Him. But does He? Can we? I submit that the answer to both questions is, “No.”

I think that we need to replace for with from. My call as a Christian is not to live for Jesus, as though I could come up with ways that were adequate to repay all He has given. Instead, I believe that living from Jesus is not only more in line with what God wants from me, but also gives Him greater honor, the very thing that I hoped to do by living for Him.

To live from Jesus says that on my own, I am incapable of producing the life that God desires from me and that I can only receive it from Him. To live from Jesus affirms His call to for me to live in Him, abiding as a vine in the branch. (A branch doesn’t live for the vine, trying hard to produce fruit, but instead it remains connected to the vine, receiving all its life and needs from the vine, and fruit is the natural result.)

If I live from Christ, it means that my life is truly no longer my own. I am not deciding that I will do something for Him (which can lead to my patting myself on the back for my good job giving back to God); instead I am submitting myself to live from Him, meaning He has greater authority, freedom, and control of my life because He is my life.

Living from Jesus is ultimately harder than living for Him, because it eliminates my ability to pick and choose when my life is about me and when it is about God.

But it is also ultimately better because my life is no longer up to me and my ability to be good enough or to make it work, but is now founded on the promises and person of the only one who is good. Choosing the correct preposition and living in a posture of from-ness reminds me that my every moment is tied to “the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:19).

Saturday, April 03, 2010

A new favorite verse

At a recent retreat I read Henri Nouwen’s The Life of the Beloved, which really blessed and challenged me. Learning to live as someone beloved by God has been really hard for me, yet I know that my belovedness is what is true and good about me.

I was searching my Bible for instances in which God calls us His beloved, and I found Deuteronomy 33:12, which says, “About Benjamin He said: Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders.”

What a picture of our relationship to God! Knowing that I am beloved of God allows me to rest securely; nothing to prove, nothing to earn. Just receive and rest.

And how secure am I in Christ? I rest between His shoulders. The first reading of this image made me think that we are carried by God as a shepherd carries his sheep, resting between His shoulders on His back, protected and secure. But I found through a commentary, that the Hebrew noun for shoulders is better translated as being carried not on the Lord’s back, but close to His chest. I’m honestly more comfortable with my first interpretation of this image, but being conformed to Christ means I allow Him to define and order who I am and how I relate to Him.

Shielded and secure, resting in love in the midst of all that I have to do. That is learning to live the life of the beloved.